Oh my goodness 5 days and counting!!!!
Feeling very surreal dont think it will be reality until I am on the plane!
I'm Female, from United Kingdom
1 day till MP eeeeekkkkkkk!!!!
Mar 14 -
Mar 27, 2014
Mar 22 -
Apr 1, 2014
Apr 3 -
May 14, 2014
May 15 -
May 23, 2014
Jun 1 -
Jun 10, 2014
Bristol, United Kingdom
Feeling very surreal dont think it will be reality until I am on the plane!
Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
First impressions of Ho Chi Minh City - I love it! Bikes, bikes and more bikes....seriously it is crazy, crossing the road is like playing chicken Ive worked out already being nonchalant and giving them direct stares as they hurtle towards you is the best tactic! I've noticed they all wear helmets as they speed along, but I have seen the occasional 2.4 family riding tandem style and none of the kids/babies wear helmets but the adults all do - whats that about!
The people dont seem quite as friendly as the Thai's (but I have only just got here)and it has a more rustic feel about it. I've no idea what is going on with currency just paid 85,000 for my dinner what a bargain....i think! My room with no window is actually rather nice apart from when you stand in the bath it nearly falls off the wall, but hey it adds to charm!
Looking forward to a proper stomp tomorrow in the daylight.
Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Vietnam
Today was fun, I've walked the entire tourist district of HCM! The day went surprisingly quickly, by the time I had breakfast, showered, checked my guide manuals, double checked my guide manuals!! It was time to head out into the mid morning heat.....First stop was the markets round the corner - these were fascinating from the tourist tack to the to the fresh fish of the day commotion! Of course the labyrinth of the market confused me and I came out a completely different entrance, I studied my map and was immediately accosted "you wanna take a ride on my bike?" No chance I've seen these roads....another fellow tourist comes up to me -also lost. My travel confidence rocketed as I actually managed to work out roughly where we were and even pointed him in the right direction - go me! So off I head to next stop the Vietnam Museum a beautiful old colonial building with lovely cold drafty rooms, it wasn't particularly interesting, but it was beautifully quiet and chilled and I happily whiled away an hour or so. I then headed up the main tourist drag and ended up at a mini Notre Dam- I actually preferred the the imperial post office building opposite. Next stop - The War Museum, for some reason I was really looking forward to this....but it just made me feel really sad, lots of graphic images (so not quite sure in my head why I was thinking it would be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.) Still an important visit as it is the infrastructure to modern day Vietnam. My route home was take me via I quote from the guide book "the hub of Vietnam" Lam Son Sq - very disappointing just some posh hotels and rather expensive shops -so I cheered myself up with a foot massage!
HCM City is interesting but it's not on my Top 10 cities list, the fact that I have pretty much covered the entire what to do in the guide book in one day says it all. Really looking forward to meeting the group tomorrow evening, thinking a day by the Sofitel Roof Top pool may be in order tomorrow :)
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Mekong Delta, Vietnam
The day starts out almost being dissapointing, but fast becomes a trip highlight. We board our bus to take us to the Mekong Delta, my expectations are high but to my dissapointment we didnt stray too far from the tourist track. We were taken to several overley tourist places, though I did enjoy the coconut factory its amazing how many things you can do with 1 coconut!! After that the day just got better and better we took a paddle boat to lunch through the dense backwaters of the Mekong, thus straightaway giving the illusion that we had left modern civilasation far behind. Lunch was about 12 courses - the food here just keeps coming and coming, and the finali was this Snap Fish delievered to us whole and upright and shreded off and then folded into rice paper. After lunch there was time for a quick snooze in the hammock, perfect way to digest such a large lunch. We then headed out on our bikes, this was so much fun you really get to see first hand the community of the Mekong Delta, we even diced with death and ventured onto the main road - super exciting who needs the most dangerous road in the world!!! We then travelled further into the Mekong, this time not by boat but by bus to our designated home for the evening, we had to walk the last 15 mins to our home stay as it was hidden in amongst the cocunut jungle. I wasnt sure what to expect I've heard mixed reviews about the previous groups home stay experience in Cambodia but it was lovely, a farm house made out of you gussed it Cocount trees! Feeling hot and sweaty from the bike ride and walk what better way to cool down than to jump into the Mekong River!!! This reminded me of a very special holiday in Kerala, amd we didnt die from water there so what the heck - just dont swallow anything!!! It was delecious though the current was quite strong, I didnt stay in too long as dusk was rapidly approaching and my fear of of misquitos lured me out to get de bugged for the evening. The house was quite large with a big open veranda that we sat out and ate dinner, there was a lot of staying so me and the young un's were in the dorm room! The family cokked for us (well we attempted to hep by making the spring rolls!) after another huge spread, we palyed a rather odd game with the guide, and our tour guide and the daughter of the house, it involved a lot of rice wine, dice and luck! I really enjoyed this experience being by the river, and I'm always feel content in rural settings it brings me closer to nature and its when I feel happiest.
Củ Chi, Vietnam
It's amazing what the Vietmaniese people have been through sometimes living up to 10 days in those cramped conditions yet their philosophy is to forgive and forget - insperatioinal. They make westerners feel so welcome though in the video they do call the Americans nasty little devils!
I get the impression from our guide that the younger generation look at western wealth and want a piece of it they work and study so hard.
Anyway back to the tunnels...........we got to crawl along inside the tourist tunnels that have been widen by 50% I managed to get along to the 4th entrance before it got too claustrophobic! I didn't realise the depth of those tunnels and neither did the Americans hence why they couldn't destroy them. They linked to wells far underground and were often made up of 3 levals with and escape route to the river - amazing.
Back in HCM city we have to rush as our overnighgt train is actually 4 hour's earlier than we first thought. I haven't really had time to stop and think about this next adventure and its only as we are walking along the platform that I suddenly feel a surge of excitement and get caught up in the hustle and bustle atmosphere. I hurriedly buy a bottle of local red wine let's hope its drinkable and were off!
The train is surprisingly comfortable, we have a great night crammed into our carridges playing card's and the wine is actually drinkable! Apart from being woken by an almighty jolt and the feeling that we were derailing I slept just fine!
Nha Trang, Vietnam
With sleep firmly glued to my eyelids we arrive in Nha Trang around 4 30 Once we've caught up on sleep half the group including myself sign up to a snorkeling trip. The guide as always is good the boat not up to my usual standards! But a great day the coral was OK, but I wasn't expecting the barrier reef it was just nice to be in thr ocean. We stopped also at a small fishing village, I love the beautiful colours of their fishing ships why use blacks and grey when you have the colours of the rainbow! Lunch was unexpectedly impressive I think they assumed they were catering for double the amount. We had noodles, calamari, spring rolls, morning glory, and so much more. After lunch for some reason I didn't have much energy for swimming so I got sunburnt instead! So nice to relax after the hectic HCM we get dropped off at the sailing club for cocktails what a lush way to finish off the day. The evening was great fun too we went to a local venue where you cook your own food on a BBQ stove, it was like a Ray Mears extreme cooking experience. I shared a bottle of Vodka with the lovely Charlie (girl - before you ask!) it cost us aprox $5 and we continued to party the night away in Nah Trang, which although not to my taste due to all the high rises and russians, it was a perfect place to bond on the dance floor with the young uns! We had a great night apart from the walk home I wont go into details, but Russian - TWAT & me not wanting to be sold should sum it up, this encounter endorses my feelings of Nha Trang - my advice book one of the luxury island off shore.
Hội An, Vietnam
It was actually ok we ended up sharing a carriage with 2 Swedes who had their motor-bikes on board and were travelling up to Hanoi, I guess the ride to Hoi Han is not so pretty hence the train journey, but they were good fun to talk to. Happy to be leaving Nha Trang behind I have no idea what to expect from Hoi Han and as often happens this turns out to be one of my favorite places, its charming. By law there are limited/no cars which makes a refreshing change and all the shops have to display lanterns so at night the town becomes a glow. Yes its touristy but i love it, i AM a tourist! The houses & shops are made of wood with pretty shutters, and the river splits the new from the old town and one of the oldest bridges has survived the war as has most of the old town. That morning fresh from our train ride! We head out on a bike ride I'm loving the bike rides - this time endless paddy fields, resulting in me taking endless photos and smiling alot! The afternoon is spent mooching around the shops until our cooking class....yes I know I'm never gonna cook it when I get home for a start where do you buy Banana Leafs???? I dont think they stock them in Tesco! However it was so much fun, for starters it was in a posh restaurant and it was happy hour on cocktails! And although they did teach us how to cook an amazing Pho, wraps, leomongrass chicken and the most amazing strawberry balsamic sauce to go with our prawn salad, I didnt have much to do with the actual cooking hence why it was so amazing and so worth every penny - delicious. One of my favorite parts was ajoining the chef to the market, I can not get enough of these markets, the smells, the colours, the people, they feel like hub of Vietnam, and I could sit and watch for hours.The evening ends with Earth Hour and what a place to be Hoi Han in the darkness, HCM would have been scary, but here the river is alight with candles and we perch on the river banks watching peoples wishes drift along.Our last day in Hoi Han comes around too quickly and its a hot one...39 degrees, shame for us we are sightseeing the temples of My Son in a non-conditioned bus - hot hot! I literally melt and practically slump under any tree or building offering me any shade, it could have been the Taj Mahal and it would have been a struggle to stay focused to what the guide was saying, but unfortunately it was not the Taj. The war is the essence of Vietnam, it's part of it's intrigue and fascination, the downside apart from the obvious loss of life is their ruins are well quite frankly ruined, from severe bombing, leaving much to the imagination. So sad and wasteful on so many levels.After a boat ride (again not quite my usual 6 star standards) we arrived rather sweatily back to Hoi Han. I think the heat got to me as I'm sure my niece and nephew are going to love the gifts I got them!!!The last evening in Hoi Han is not a let down - Velvet took us to an amazing street restaurant (again!) all we can eat Vietnamese style. Basically we had rice wraps with all this amazing meat, salad, prawns it was lush!
After a few hours drive along a stunning coast line we reach the old imperial city, we've been told most tourist only stop for one night so lets see what two will bring. Our hotel is based in the developing side of city and we have to walk several intersections before finding somewhere for lunch. Whilst our hotel seems more modern my room smells so I leave my window open, I decision I will regret later.....
After lunch a few of us opt for the Cyclo tour, its a no brainer for me I've been itching to get on one and off we go! Over bridges, across a moat to the old walled city and fortified gates, all the while the scenery forever changing the faces smiling (especially when John swaps places with his Cyclo guy!!) and the traffic whizzing by so close you can feel it, call me an adrenalin junky but I love it! Though I have complete trust in my driver somehow the modern day trucks and bikes just make room for this inconvenient and ancient form of transport! Dusk is settling in as we head along the banks of the river, children play on the streets, men play cards and even the woman are taking time out to watch the world go by with me.
We stop at a market - you know how I love a good market, especially with Nhung there getting us try all the varying bites and treats, we also stop at an old farm where a old lady in her 90's is there to greet us. Her home is modest, attached is what appears to be outhouse buildings, but when she opens the shutters this glorious, glittering shrine stands, this is a classic example of how the Vietnamese pay homage to their loved and lost, the room is such a contrast to her basic living quarters. She invites us in for tea and gets out the biscuit tin, one thing that will always be the same wherever you are in the world is sweet old ladies feeding you all their biscuits!
After this heart warming experience its back on the cyclo's the setting sun, the warm breeze rushing my face - I have a moment - this is it I'm travelling (I know I'm literally on a cyclo but you know what I mean!) I'm crying and laughing all at once, the poor peddler must be thinking Ive got a crazy girl on my hands!! I have the biggest smile on my face and even the the swarm of mosquitoes that welcome me back in my room cant take it away.
Hà Nội, Vietnam
The general feedback from tourist would have been correct, to be honest 1 night in Hue would have been sufficient, an extra day in Ha Long Bay would have been perfect. Although the old imperial city grounds did not disappoint you could spend just a couple of hours here and easily feel that you've seen most of what there is to see. The surrounding tourist sights had little to offer, and what tourist area's did survive had not been kept up, such a shame. However for dinner Nhung excelled again sourcing an amazing local restaurant, she weaved her magic as we arrived there was no room in the inn, but 10 mins later miraculously a table for 16 tah da!!!! It's these little touches and so much more that has made this trip so great, and make having a tour guide a added benefit, I wasn't sure about the whole touring aspect but she certainly helped change my mind.
Last train journey, we are all experts now, boarding with our snacks and wine!! On arrival I know straight I'm gutted I dont have more time in Hanoi, it's far prettier than HCM, with a firm French influence, I'm sure as a a strong communist capital they would not love to be reminded of this! There is a definite difference from south to north you can feel the communist vibes and stares, especially when being shown around HCM's preserved body, a strange but curious experience for a tourist. First stop after a very early breakfast is morning walking tour of the city, again Nhung takes us down back alleys and recommends charming eateries with great lake views that we take advantage of later. She also takes us to a famous restaurant where they serve egg yokes in the coffee, it's a family recipe handed down and is top secret, its sounds disgusting but is probably the best coffee I have ever had.....Starbucks eat your heart out.
After some serious tack buying of touristy presents myself and my new travel buddy Rachel stop for a well deserved lunch, before finally heading back to the hotel for a freshen up. Tonight we visit the water puppet shows, yes its odd and touristy, but when in Vietnam......
Im getting an early night as I'm so excited for the penultimate trip,Ha Long Bay - yeah baby!
Republic of Chile, Chile
Santiago is a beautiful city, and on arrival after crossing god knows how many time lines I opt out of sleep and head straight into the city to pick up a free walking tour. As beautiful as the city is, eventually jet lag gets the better of me and I head back to the hotel and order pizza - must do better tomorrow night!
The next day is Sunday and the streets are nice and chilled, I venture to buy bus ticket to Medoza. Now it could be the fact that I was still very jet lagged or that I can not read a map, but I got lost, my spanish is poor and although just about capable of asking directions to the bus station, I certainly do not understand their response- especially in Chille where they speak extra fast!. Lucky I have no major plans for the day, and I certainly exlpore the city on foot, and eventually end up with my ticket. That night I go for dinner with a young lad from my hostel who also just arrived, I order by accident fried chicken and chips - must do better!
Monday and Im off to cross the border to Argentina....just for a couple of days before I return to Chile via Valperaiso. On arrival at the bus station it is clear that they think I am an idiot for travelling alone with such limited spanish, still a smile solves most things and various guestures and nodding of ones head seems to work. The bus driver takes pity on me and practically walks me in line for the border crossing, but before the crossing we must first past through the Andes, I´m so pleased I read the guide books as this really is a road you would not want to do at night for 2 simples reasons, 1-it´s beautiful, 2-its not very straight! Now I must also mention the buses, they are so cool...I went semi cama for this 6 hour journey and I got very comfotable seat and a wee snack with amazing veiws on the top deck.
On arrivel into Mendoza I know instantly although still a city its very chilled out and Im pleased I have 3 nights here. So much to do and so little time, the hostel is really quaint I´ve gone for the shared dorm option after having my own room in Santiago, in the hope of meeting more peolpe, but I neednt have bothered the common areas are really chilled and everyone hangs out and cooks....so I get my apron and get cooking...whilst sipping the local red wine...so far Ive not experienced great food (especially not my cooking) but the company more than makes up for it in Hostel Alamo.
Whilst here I make the most of my time, a wine tour on a bike, so
much fun, rafting with my new spanish friend with the odd bit of absailing thrown in that was an added but surreal bonus, and I finally go out for dinner for basically a plate of various BBQ meat, who would have thought intestine could taste so good!
So after Mendoza, looking at my script its back to Chille -right? Or I could opt to head into the heart of Argentina (the country I was certain I wouldnt bother much with) for a week ranch riding with Gaucho´s........I nearly dont make it as I get to the bus station gaily chatting to some people on the same bus as me, but I foolishly thought my bus was at 22.30 but it wasnt it was at 22.00, the 22.30 bus is the last bus to Cordoba that night, there goes that smile again, this time splashed with mild panic and $10 US!!! Luckily I make it on, much to the annoyance of the lady in the ticket office, I opt for repeating muy stupido a lot and with the smiley bus driver that Ive just given the dollars it works, it does however mess up my transfer to my excluisve ranch and if you knew the cost you wouldnt want to miss a night either, after a panicked phone call on my emergancy phone all is sorted, but there is a lesson in their somehwhere for me with regards to checking tickets, as this bus breaks down on the side of the road and what should have been a 10 hour journey turns into a 15!!!
After arrival in South America, and despite the lure of the pretty town of Mendoza and my new Argentinan friends, I was feeling somewhat low after leaving my lovely friends in NZ after their wonderful wedding and quite frankly a country that is so spectacular and beautiful, I needed cheering up so I booked into Los Petreros for the week. Perhaps a week was over ambitious as I now have a very bad back..oops! On arrival Lou and Kev the owners are there to greet me and my first impressions are slightly eccentric English couple, but I'm mistaken there is nothing eccentric about them....they manage to make the guest feel like friends of the family and part of their home which is no easy feat, especially after 11 months of solid work. Les Potreros is a Estancia nestled into the Serra Cordoba, and a complete haven, totally off the budget, but it was so nice to be spoilt for the week. If ANYONE ever wants a ranch holiday you have to recommend this place. The horses are amazing, the staff incredible, and the food is AMAZING all reared on the farm and handmade. They also own a winery so you can enjoy fine wines, and as much as it as you can guzzle down your neck. I was expecting it to be older clients there, but it was so nice there were two young American girls when I arrived and also a couple from America and England my age, so we had lots of fun and lots of interesting dinner conversations!! But the highlight was of course the scenery and the horse riding, we would go out for 3 hours in the morning, come back have the most amazing lunch and depending on how much wine you consumed over lunch a siesta or mini hike, before the afternoon,early evening ride, which was my favourite as we would often round up the mare's and their foals whilst the sun was setting in the distance, there is nothing quite like hearding animlas in the wild. As it was the end of season we also one day had to round up the entire 200 horses from all over the Estanica as they needed to be checked by the Vet, this was my most memorbale, day I was on a horse called Gringo, my could he move I beat the Goucho!!!!! Some of the Goucho were smiley and some I re named Groucho!! Les Potreros is a working farm so inbetween taking us trail riding they are working on the farm, hearding cattle fixing fences....they think we are mad to pay for something they see as work! I was so sad to leave my little cottage with my wood stove and comfy bed for my 22 hour bus journey to Beriloche, my last two nights there I was the last guest...I thought I would be bored, but they invited me to staff party on the final night, lots of danicng and merriment and broken spanish,english and lots of fun!!!
Argentine Republic, Argentina
Somebody told me that Argentina was flat, boring and solus - they were wrong.Im sat on my cama luxury bus looking out of the window as I head to Buenos Aires from Bariloche at the most stunning scenery that is giving NZ a serious run for its money.The view is ever changing and so beautiful, from mountain peaks, rushing rivers to endless rolling hills that float amidst the clouds making me take a second glance to see if it's the horizon or a vast a lake sometimes it is. The people are beautiful and quite frankly so is the country. Again im learning not to listen to all advice, everyone told me not to go to Bariloche it's out of season and will be cold and miserable, they were wrong it was beautiful (there's that word again!) Yes we were lucky with the weather but even on the day it did rain we hired a car and the sun peaked through the clouds alighting the orange, brown, red and yellow leaves of autumn, with the lakes as a backdrop it was a continuous battle of where to rest my eyes, the trees or the misty lakes this place has blown me away and I would highly recommend travelling to Bariloche and Patigonia in the autumn. On my arrival into Bariloche I booked into Penthouse 1004 the views from my room were amazing. I also met some great travel buddies, I think you cant help but meet cool people in such a cool place! We travelled around the lake district mainly by local bus and then you just go off on the walking trails, admit ly we did get lost a few times but it all adds to the adventure! One of our walks took us to a very posh hotel that happens to be owned by their wonderful president, she must be very smart with her money as i understand this is one of many!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Another walk we weren't really prepared for was the 20k Catedral walk we set off a bit late for a 4 hour hike uphill! Once we eventually reached the summit we only had 20 minutes to take in the most spectacular lake view that was frozen, hence why we had to make our rapid decent before darkness and the bitter cold envelops us. Still despite the rush and exhaustion it was so worth it and good practice for Matchu Pitchu
Argentine Republic, Argentina
Buenos Aires my new favourite city.To think I wasnt going to come here, my regret now was spending that extra day in Bariloche so given my love for that place says it all. A complete contrast from Patigonia this city is full of charisma and energy a European City built in South America. It's hard to believe with their current failing economy that this used to be the 3rd largest economy in the start of the new world and prosperity, but actually you can see it in these glamorous streets. influences from Paris, Spain and Italy are around every corner but there is no doubting this is a proud South American city. In my 3 days I managed see and party a fair bit, here is a very quick run down:DAY 1Free walking tour of the city on arrival, great way to meet fellow travellers and get my bearings. We learned all about the ever in twining history of argentina, with the tour ending at the pink palace, facing the balcony of Evita, at night it lights up and so does the rest of the city. A visit to a tango show in one if the traditional cafe, yes it was touristy but when in BA right? Using the tube followed by a lot of walking. Got a taxi back to my hostel in Palemero district, a very cool chic part of town, though a little way out from the centre. Get back to the hostel around 10pm and meet a girl who has just done the G adventure tour that im about to do. Quick change and the were off out, this is actually early for this town. We first head to Mill House to meet her friends, id heard about this place OMG thank god im not staying here, club 18 to 30 eat your heart out. Thankfully were not allowed in! So go for a drink round the corner, we head back at 2am to meet them to head out to a club called Lost very apt as we do get lost trying to find it! One word cramped and full of Argentina yardies, whilst im chuffed ive stayed awake long enough to make it to one of BA's notorious clubs after 3 hours im done being felt up squashed and waiting for drinks whilst listening to very bad mc's!!!! Luckily the 2 girls are from my hostel are up for heading back too.Not bad for my first 24 hours!DAY 2After a well deserved lie in and missing breakfast im famished and I feel the need to explore Palemero. So gutted im not going to be able to soak this place up some more. I find a nice weeekend market, a lush cafe on a square corner and slowly shrug of my hangover. I ve arranged to meet the girls and we head out on a bus so love exploring on local transport, we head to Recollecta the posh side of town where most of the hotels are, it's full of green parks, trendy shops and general poshness! Weve headed here to go to cementry!!!! Not just any ordinary cementry, it's where all the rich are buried, lots of people told me to come here and I can see why. Some of the crypts could house a family, and of course there is Evita grave, we would have never have found it on our own, but we sneaked onto the tail end of tour group!Tonight im so excited im off to see Fuerza Bruta, feeling brave to be heading to a theatre alone, I don't even go to the cinema on my own back home! Back on the bus to Recollecta im felling strangely confident amongst the locals. Thankfully on walking in i bump into the couple from the walking tour, I have no idea what to expect. IF YOU CAN GO SEE THIS SHOW IN London!!! Ok I paid the equivalent of £10 :) but what a spectacle, it was like being ina artsy carnival, the best natural high, I get the bus home with my ipod in dancing away smiling at everyone!!! Back to the hostel its Saturday night and its feeling lively! After a few wines we head out to Salsa night, im starving so we stop in one of the trendy wine bars in Palemero, after a couple of hours the staff turn on the karaoke, after just one song I manage to drag myself away, I have bad experiences of Karaoke! The salsa club is fab, but im so crap its funny!!! The Latinos know how to dance!! I think we stagger back in around 6am!!DAY 3I have to check out at 10am ouch!!! The hostel is pretty chilled out and me and one of the girls can leave our bags there. We hang out around Palermo and my travel buddy suggest the infamous steak house at the end of our street, im not sure im ready for steak, but its soon midday and im leaving tomorrow, and what goes with steak wine! Hair of the dog it is then!!After a delicious meal, I head into the centre to check into my hotel, im so tired im dreading meeting the group I just wanna sleep, but I push on and head to the colourful district of la bocca, im told it dangerous so we play safe and get a taxi. During the day if you stay in tge touristy area it really does seem safe enough, like the rest of the city. So I meet the group im about to spend the next 2 weeks with, I instantly hit it off with ny roommate, and a couple of the other girls so...early night what do you think it's our last night in BA!!!!!
But I am having lots of fun......to join the G adventures group was a good decision. Once Id recovered from my 40 mins sleep, and the fact I left several clothes behind (never pack drunk!) me and the girls made the most of the sunshine. Salta was a nice enough town, but for me nothing special, espècially as we had 2 days here, not quite sure why...you can travel up to Calafate but the option of a 3 hour bus journey for 1 wine tasting didnt add up for me. So we got the Gondala up to the view point of the city with a bottle of wine chesse & crakers, and plonked ourselves in what we thought was kids park, but it turned out to be a gym...so there we were gossiping drinking wine and eating whilst all around us these dudes were working out!!! Still it was a nice relaxing way to spend a day after the chaos of Buenos Aires, so after re charging the batteries we head out for dinner, and oh my how the town comes alive!! Especially when their team just won the football leauge!! It was crazy, car horns, fire crackers, singing, and just generally a lot of noise and fun. I can only imagine the atmosphere in BA tonight where the match took place, the air was literally crackling, its made me wanna go to the World Cup games soooo bad!!!
It´s like a sand village, Im stuck in an old epsiode of Star Wars! Our hostel if friendly and we sit outside to enjoy a few drinks, but as dusk sets in we get a glimpse of the freezing conditions of our next few nights out in the desert and the salt flats. Firstly though we have sand boarding and the Valley of the Moon to enjoy......this truly is a wonderous landscape and the sunset over the Valley of the Moon is beautiful, we are all high from our fun filled day, with sand everywhere and in places it shouldnt be after sand boarding, we get ready for a top night out, this place has great bars and resturants, I would 100% recommend coming here. It hasnt rained here for over 100 years and the stars are amazing and a few of us book for the following evening an observertory tour, which ive been advised is amazing and something I am very much looking forward to.....Unfortunately our 2nd night would you believe is overcast...how unlucky this only happens a handfull of times a year.."Oh well" I tell myself "The stars above the Salt Flats will be amazing" ......
Región de Atacama, Chile
Atacama Desert, Chile
Firstly I must mention the amazing bus journeys, we are generally travelling around 4000 to 5000 meters the roads wind up and up, until I quite feel like I can get enough air....Im now a constant joke for my travel buddies as my face at the boarder crossing from Argentina to Chille was a picture and not a pretty one....how I didnt vomit I dont know!!! The trick I soon learned was drink lots and lots of water, eat coco leaves you just plaster a handful of leaves to the side of your mouth, not pleasent but it does seem to work! Oh and I have had to knock the wine on the head too!! Back to this mornings journey that will take us up over the Atacma dessert into Bolivia, I am expecting the sceanery to be as breathtaking as all the others, they just seem to get better and better...the Andes Region is incredible.
We start the morning queing at the Bolivian border (I need to get used to this first of many!) Im dressed in shorts and a tshirt, I soon change into something warmer, as once we reach the hut that is the Bolivian Border its freeking snowing!!! A sign of things to come......however not to be detered we all excitidly get into our 4wd´s our home´s for the next 3 days...and were off! To say the drive is sceanic is an understatement. We pass lagoons the colour of pink from the reflection of so many Flamingo´s, rolling dessert dunes, volcano´s, bubbling hot pools and vast mountains...who knew how beautiful Bolivia is.....mind blowing, and all at 5000 metres!!! So it literally took your breath away when you stepped out of the car to take photos. Halfway through the day our 4wd broke down!! So 4 of us had to bundle into our partner car as the others were no where to be seen. Sqaushed is a good word to describe the next 30 min drive....it must have looked most amusing as 8 of us piled out of the car once we caught up withe the others! As a result of the clapped out car we split ourselves up and i ended up in the lead car. The view onwards towards our hotel was amazing, the sun was setting and the cloud cover actually gave the landscape back drop that extra special definition. We all had high hopes for tomorrow that the clouds would clear and the sun would come out. Our hotel/farm was rustic, they lit a fire for us in the main dining room and I was thankfull for my 4 seasons sleeping bag!
We awake to 3 inches of Snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! None of us had warm enough clothes for these tempitures. Still we ventured outside after breakfast and took some amazing shots of the snow capped mountains and the white powder sneaking the edges of the near frozen lake, I feel a bit better when I look at the poor Flamingos, there was only a handful there, shivering on their skinny stalks! We head off in our 4 wd´s, we have a new car and a new driver! To be honest because of the cold we hardly venture out to take photos, and as a result our car ended up in front of the lead car. It seemed to cause problems as they oddly they dont have radios and as a result we lost the pack, so it took some time for us all to regroup. Lunch ended up being very delayed, however by this time the sun was trying its best to peak out and we were able to sit outside. We stopped at this amazing island in the middle of the salt flats, with the biggest cactie you will ever see! Despite the low lying cloud the salt flats were still amazing, they go on for miles and miles, this NP is 3 times as big as England. Just one long vast escape of white, some parts you stand on are all cracked through lack of water. After lunch we climb the island, because we have dropped down,the tempiture is almost balmy, well enough anyway for some lads to strip naked and run accross the flats!! The group is in high spirits....that is until we see our accommodation for the night....THIS IS NOT A HOTEL! It reminded me some of the shacks we stayed in the Himalayas. At night the temp drops down to minus 8, our room had a sand floor and the flapping roof was held down by rocks! For dinner they take us to an almost boutique hotel with heaters, duvets and a roof! This is where we SHOULD have been staying, 3 of us absconde from the group, for one night it is 20 US. I would feel bad for leaving the group but Ive known this restless nights sleep before and trust me its the best 20 dollars ive ever spent! As the wind howls Im tucked up under my snug duvet. Later that week suprisingly half the group comes down with a cold and cough! That was me in the Himalayas...been there got the tshirt there is no shame in being warm!!
The morning has promises of being a nice day, although the impressive sunset of the previous evening outshone this mornings dawn. Breakfast was in the same place as dinner, where we tried Lama for the first time, a mix of beef and lamb, quite tasty! We were due to be in Uyuni for early afternoon, so this gave us plenty of time to play on the salt flats and I mean play! The definition of the blue sky against the white salt creates an illusion, and if you stragically place a small object, you look like a giant in the background! Great fun messing about with our cameras, I could have easily spent the day here and eventually the sun rised to the occasion, giving us that almost clear blue sky.
By the time we reach Uyuni a windstorm was threatening. We checked into the hotel so pleased to see our warm rooms and hot showers! The boys and our tour guide were excited for the champions league and we went to a bar for lunch with a TV. I actually got quite into it until the sand storm upped its game and won! Uyuini was thrown into complete darkness. Kiran my room mate took great delight in telling Vlad our tour guide as he cursed the blank screen ¨"In Bolivia Everything is Possible but NOthing is for Sure!!" he has used this saying on us numerous times so it was perfect pay back! But he took it in good jest as he has all our continued banter. I have to say another excellent tour guide they really are what makes or breaks the trip.
The Sand storm continued to batter our hotel..thank god we were in a hotel and not a shack!! We played cards by candle light and it ended up being one of the best nights, they are clearly used to black outs and Vlad took us to a pizza place that had a open fire oven and as a added bonus there was a local band to serenade us under our romantic candlelight setting! On the way home due to the black out the sky was alive with stars and the milky way shone bright....perfect!
Another reason I'm so pleased I took the G adventurer tour is I wasn't going to bother with these 2 towns and it would have been a real shame to miss them as they were both beautiful.
Potasi the highest town in the world and in the 16th century it was booming and one of the biggest cities in the world, as it held the riches of silver for the Spanish conquest. So to this day there are still delightful colonial buildings, despite the fact when the silver ran out the Spanish left this city desolate. Now the miners dig for lead under awful conditions and meagre wages. We got to visit the mines, they donned us up in the full gear including hard hats with lights! I was rather enjoying it until I brushed my hand up against some suspect white crystallised powder, the guide told me not to touch my face.....great!
We must have been in there for a couple of hours, we went searching for miners to give them our offerings of coca leaves, fizzy pop and ciggies, all very healthy stuff but i can't imagine their life expectancy being very high so what the heck. The tour was quite hairy in places, but this was part of the fun, no health and safety rukes down here!!
Sucre I could have stayed for a week here, its the place to learn Spanish, so me and Kiran had a 4 hour lesson followed by lots of practicing over a bottle of wine.....muy bueno!!!!
Its a beautiful city, and its where all the wealthy based themselves to manage the mines of Potasi. It really is like no other city in Bolivia....far too posh! We ended up having a wild night here, the bars and restaurants are geared for tourists and the night finished with bad karaoke!!
Republic of Bolivia, Bolivia
Now I know I said I enjoy the bus rides...that was in Argentina! What should have been a 12 hour overnight bus journey to La Paz from Sucre ended up being the bus journey from hell...so much so it deserves its own diary entry! We left Sucre at 4pm loaded with snacks (thankfully) the bus was supposed to be Cama, but this is Bolivia! It gets to about 10pm and Im thinking of settling down for some sleep when they decide play a spanish movie on full volume! After numerous stops for the drivers to eat, fill up the leaking radiator we eventually make it to Potasi...wasnt expecting to be back here so soon! In fact we have to go all the way back to Uyuni (the salt flats!) but first we have to get out of Potasi as they have blockaded our route...Vlad to the resuce after 2 hours we finally find a way out! Finally sleep finds me, but it is short lived we hit a bump and another one and another one....this is to be our journey for the next 20 hours!! As the bus struggles along a dirt track road that is far from finished and far from suitable for this low bus, we get lost some more, we all have to get off the bus at one point as it gets grounded on some rocks, a few planks of wood and a scrapping sound of metal and were off again! Finally we cross an unfinished bridge and we hit the main road...thank god, by now the bus is filled with dust due to some of the windows not shutting properly. By the time we get to La Paz I feel I have Stockholm syndrome I cant be bothered to get off this bus...its hard work doing nothing for 24 hours! As for the reason of the blockades....who knows In Bolivia everything is possible and nothing is for sure!!!!
La Paz, Bolivia
I stay an extra night here to make up for the day missed due to the blockades. By the time arrive its 7pm so Vlad takes us to the night markets, where you can purchase back the the stolen items you hd nicked!!! We also visit the Witchery market where you can buy a fetous of a Alpaca..Im sure my friends cant wait for their souvenier pressies!! That night we head out an Indian...like you do!!! No drinking tonight...its the DEATH ROAD TOMORROW!!! I survied...yay!!!! It was blooming beautiful, exhilarating and a tiny bit scary in places! The drive takes us up out of La Paz and into the Alto Plato. I shuold mention that La Paz has 1.2M bodies crammed into a basin of a impressive mountain range. As we drive out it makes for an incredible picture shot. Once on top I manage to injur myself before we even gets started on the ip of my over coat!! We all look like BMXs all geared up ready to go......The first part is on tarmac and we go whizzing down full speed, its SO much fun with the most beautiful sceanery whooshing past us, lush mountains are a blur to my right. It then changes dramtically as we hit the orginal dirt track road..."Death Road" (named because of the deaths before they built the new road...so dont worry Mum). I decied to take it easy...its a long drop down! I love it despite the fear, its so much fun we past under waterfalls and as we drop the sceanery changes to rain forest, im getting used to the bike and Im actually one of the oneÂ´s that doesnt fall off! A few do and catapult over the handle bars..a few scrapes and souviener bruises and they are fine, Im pleased to sy we didnt lose anyone over the edge! We reach the bottom afte about 4 hours by now my bum is very sore, Ive stripped down to the bear essentials as it so hot, so if I fall it will hurt, still I cant stop myslef from whooohing as we speed along, my only regret is I didnt stop more to savour the views. They also wont let you take a camera as previous tourist have succumbed mbed to fate whilst biking and taking photos! After making it safely back to La Paz we head out for our last night...its messy!!!
Republic of Peru, Peru
Ariquipa the gateway for Colca Canyon is is a dusty, but pretty spanish 16th century colonial town. I spent an afternoon wondering the streets of a monestry that was the size of a large village. I then booked my tour for Colca, I could have done 2 days but Im so glad that I booked the 3. It meant a 7am start instead of 3am, the 6 hour trek was split over 2 days and we arrived to the most amazing Oasis at midday with plenty of time to enjoy the tranquillity and sunshine. The 2 day tours arrive at 4pm just as the sun is dipping behind behind the canyon walls. The Canyon itself is is incredible and our guide Miguel from Cola tours was mad but so much fun, entertaining and informative. The first day involved climbing by car to 5000 metres (im getting used to this!) The loo stop at the NP boarder crossing was an unbuilt buidling behind the control office! It was that or a cactus!! Back on the road though the drive as always was beautiful, ive been so spoilt on this entire trip. Todays sceanery included a Volcano with pumes of smoke, Lama´s and Alpaca´s and the endless Andes mountain range which I will never gorw tired of. We are heading to the deepest canyon in the world, after a decent lunch we start of on our trek. The views are amazing as we step by step inch further into the Canyon, we can just about see the village, our home for the night far down in the crescent. I feel like Im in Lord of the Rings as I see the path zig zagging across the mountain. One of highlights was defintely 3 massive condors flying right pass us as we walked one of the clift passes, they were so graceful, and the noise was unreal you could hear the speed of their wing spans against the thermals. Miguel took a long time explaining all the plants and surroundings and telling us lots of stories, which was fab but we did wonder what time we would make it into the village, well the answer to that was in darkness! He didnt seem to be worried though, as we tredged on in the darkness under the stars via tiny little paths with a drop down into the gorge! Actually it was amazing once your eyes adjusted, a few of us has head torches, but in fact we kept turning them off so we could enjoy the stars. When we arrived we were starving, I was expecting a family home stay, but in reality it was a tourist farm with lots of bungalows and other trekers. Our little group was great, 3 english guys and 2 scandanvian girls, we played cards after dinner before retiring to bed at 9.30pm! The next day was perfect breakfast at a respectable 7.30am followed by a 2 hour trek, we pushed Miguel on a bit today as we all had an agenda, to arrive at the Oasis for some sun bathing action! We still managed to find time to eat berries, and rub red war paint on our faces "Team Condor!" A dog from the village joined us so we painted his face too and he came the whole way with us, it was complete we were a pack! Im so pleased we pushed on as we approached the end it got really hard up hill, especially in the mid morning sun, if this the easy day goodness knows how hard tomorrows slog all up hill is going to be. Maltilda asked me if I wanted to share a donkey, one of my favourite questions of my trip!!! As the Oasis came into sight the pools glittering in the distance like a Christmas treat, it seemed to take forever to finally reach it, we had to go right down to the river, across and then up, however the showers and swimming pools wating for us was heaven. Ive been lucky enough to see some posh hotels in my time, but this moment in the bottom of the canyon takes some beating, who would have thought there would have been this amzing hotel at the bottom of Cola Canyon! We sunbath, snooze in hamocks under palm trees and generally chill out. Again we seem to be really lucky with our guide as everyone else receives the standard rice and chicken dish, but Miguel has whipped up a BBQ for with Lama! After a loveley evening we get an early night as we have to be up at 3am tomorrow so we can make the hike up before the sun gets too hot. To say Im worried is an over statement!
I had a right to be scared, it was tough. 3 hours none stop climbing, how an earth am I going to do 5 days in MP....It was slog, slog and slog some more. We set out with torches and didnt stop for the first 45 mins. When we finally did stop to catch our breath (and that was the easy bit!) we looked up to the sparkling sky above with our torches turned off and well above the distance lights of the Oasis it was just us and the landscape of the galaxy, in the darkness of the Canynon, shooting stars the lot (though I kept missing them!!) It was enough to give us that energy boost to continue up. We all stayed together at the start but as the second half of the climb was a lot harder and I was struggling the young lads set off ahead. I struggled on and it seemed as we got nearer to the top we got further away (I could have been walking backwards...I probably nearly was!) However I made it up to the top just in time as the Sun had reared up over the Canynon walls. To my horror as I felt like collapsing at the top, just manging to smile for the pictures, I was then told we had to walk to the village, it nearly finished me off! But it didnt and it was quite a nice walk and if Id had the energy I would have taken some pictures of the farmers in the fields harvesting their corn, we got our feet wet crossing a stream and when we finally made it to the village I wasnt sure if I was hungry, but as the eggs arrived I wolfed it down! When we got on the bus we all promptly fell asleep, we broke the journey up at a look out point for Condors, dont get me wrong it was still amazing to see them below us flying through the sky, but they were in the distance and we were surrounded by hoards of tourists, we were so so lucky to have our special encounter on the first day. Back in Ariquipa I just have time to buy some snacks for my early bus ride tomorrow morning to Copacbana, we have dinner say our farewells, we are all agreed its been an amazing 3 days. Alarm set for 5am...bed.